Educators and students at many Catholic school boards across the province raised the Pride flag for the first time ever today, including Catholic boards in Durham, Niagara, Ottawa and Toronto.
Advocates and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community say it’s a symbolic gesture and a call to action.
“It was a very emotional reaction watching the flag-raising ceremony today,” said Kyle Iannuzzi, a former student trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).
The TCDSB hosted its first ever official celebration to mark the start of Pride Month on Tuesday.
“We demonstrate living the gospel values of love, inclusion, compassion and care for all, including 2SLGBTQ2+,” Brendan Browne, the board’s director of education, said at Tuesday morning’s ceremony.
Iannuzzi, who has been vocal about 2sLGBTQ+ inclusion at Catholic boards, said while it’s important to celebrate this moment, there is much work that still to be done to support queer students at Catholic schools.
“Now we’re saying in schools that these places are safe and you can have those conversations, but we have policy and curriculum that contradict that,” he noted, adding advocates have been calling for Ontario’s Ministry of Education to centralize support and resources for LGBTQ2S+ students, staff, and families.
“We’ve been calling for an audit since 2019 – to find out whether this inclusion is happening,” he explained.
Tuesday’s moment was also met with anti-LGBTQ2S+ protests at eight Catholic boards.
Vehicles circled outside the headquarters of the TCDSB in protest of the Pride flags on display. At Halton’s Catholic board, protestors spoke out against what they called, “approved LGBT indoctrination,” though the board recently voted against flying the Pride flag.
Demonstrators were met with counter-protesters, calling on the board to instead support LGBTQ2S+ students and fly the flag.
Out of Ontario’s 37 Catholic boards, at least 16 of them have publicly said they’re celebrating Pride this month. Two Catholic boards, Halton and Hamilton-Wentworth, re-affirmed this year that they would not be flying the flag.
Boards’ recent decisions in favour of the gesture have not been uncontroversial.
“When the TCDSB voted to raise the flag, we saw presentations that were homophobic,” said Iannuzzi. “I remember one of the delegates saying gay people are suffering from themselves, from their conditions essentially.”
The TCDSB’s director of education noted today that the board’s flag raising ceremony is just a start.
“We acknowledge there’s much more,” says Brown. “We are committed to further engagement with TCDSB’s LGBTQ2S+ advisory committee to supporting students, staff and families.”
Pride flags will be on display at TCDSB schools for all of June. All flags at board properties have also been lowered to half-mast in memory of the 215 children who were discovered last week at a mass grave site at the Catholic-run Kamloops Indian Residential School.
As a student, Iannuzzi says he never saw his identity reflected at his school.
“It was still very much a hidden part of my life, so much so I didn’t appreciate the fact the flag wasn’t there and available for me at school,” he says. “I can’t even picture what my life would be like today if I had been able to come out to myself earlier in life.”
Ontario Catholic School Boards Celebrating Pride Month 2021
CityNews reviewed Ontario’s 37 Catholic school boards. As of June 1, 2021, 16 had publicly stated they were celebrating Pride.
- Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board
- Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario
- Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
- Durham Catholic District School Board
- Conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord
- Kenora Catholic DSB
- MonAvenir Conseil scolaire catholique
- Niagara Catholic DSB
- Ottawa Catholic School Board
- Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board
- Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
- Toronto Catholic District School Board
- Waterloo Catholic District School Board
- Wellington Catholic District School Board
- Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board
- York Catholic District School Board